LUMBERTON — After nearly two months of discussion, the Lumberton City Council on Monday adopted a zoning ordinance regulating the location, hours and capacity of now-illegal electronic gaming establishments.
The ordinance was passed at the end of a meeting that began with the presentation of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine to Mayor Raymond Pennington.
The ordinance will replace a 2010 moratorium banning the establishments that expires June 10. The city’s current and previous attorneys advised the council against extending the moratorium, saying it could be vulnerable to a legal challenge.
The gaming ordinance has been before the council several times, changing slightly with each discussion, and is intended to prepare the city in the event gaming establishments are deemed legal.
The latest amendment, crafted on Monday night, forbids sweepstakes cafes from opening within 1,000 feet of other sweepstakes cafes, a residential zoning district, a single-family residence, a daycare center, a school, a government building, a public park, playground or library, an adult establishment, a group care facility or a cemetery. The change in the amendment was a doubling of the buffer from 500 to 1,000 feet.
The cafes are limited to three of 18 zoning districts and can only operate on Mondays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. Establishments can have no more than one machine per 100 square feet and are capped at 20 machines. The machines cannot be used by anyone under 18. No alcohol can be served.
Under the ordinance, conditional-use permits for sweepstakes cafes will not be issued until the General Assembly deems them legal.
At the start of the meeting, Sen. Michael Walters surprised Pennington with the state’s highest civilian honor.
“I share this with every city councilman I’ve ever served with in these 28 years. I share it with everybody I have met either as a student, a colleague or a friend at (The University of North Carolina at Pembroke) for 50 years … I love everyone of them,” said Pennington, who was joined by his wife and son.
Pennington has served the city of Lumberton for 28 years, including as mayor since 1991. He worked as an athletic director and professor at UNCP and also served on its board of trustees.
“… I am here to tell you tonight the most important title to the citizens of Robeson County and Lumberton, N.C., is you’re their friend,” said Walters, who rose during the public comment portion of the meeting.
The council also settled its budget for boards and commissions, allocating $446,500 to 15 nonprofits for the 2014-2015 fiscal year budget, including the $12,500 allocated to Lumberton Rescue and Emergency Medical Services. The Boys and Girls Club of Lumberton will receive $5,000; the Community Relations Commission, $12,500; the Robeson County History Museum, $5,500; Exploration Station, $12,500; Robeson County Church and Community Center, $3,500; Mayor’s Committee for the Challenged, $2,500; Southeastern Family Violence, $10,000; Robeson County Public Library, $285,000; Robeson County Humane Society, $1,500; Lumberton Appearance Commission, $5,000; Lumberton Christian Care, Inc., $22,500; Robeson House, Inc., $3,000; BART, $1,250; and Colors of Life, $5,000.
With the exception of the history museum and the public library, each nonprofit will receive the same amount as during the 2013-2014 fiscal year. The museum received $2,000 more and the library an additional $5,000.
In other business, the council:
— Unanimously denied a conditional-use permit for a veteran’s care facility at 210 E. 15th St. Sixty-three residents signed a petition protesting the facility and four spoke during a public hearing, concerned about mentally unstable patients causing safety issues in the area, which is home to many children. Tony Reese, the applicant, also spoke, admitting perhaps the project was “not a good idea” for the neighborhood.
— Approved an agreement with Becker Morgan Group to design a score tower at Northeast Park at a cost of about $8,000. The budget for the tower is $250,000.
— Approved a $12,000 contract with Anderson Engineering & Associates for engineering plans to renovate the kitchen and restrooms at Bill Sapp Recreation Center.
— Adopted a resolution authorizing the submission of a $500,000 building reuse grant for Southeastern Regional Medical Center to accommodate medical students from Campbell University. Southeastern Health will provide the required local match.
— Authorized the Lumberton Police Department to apply for a $33,800 grant to buy 65 bulletproof vests.
— Presented the owners of Kash n’ Karry grocery store on Martin Luther King Drive with the Pride in Lumberton award. Councilmen John Cantey and Robert L. Jones made the presentation.
— Approved the plat for Lot 76 in the Amberdale area and set a bond in the amount of $15,000 for completion of $12,610 in improvements to the lot.
— Referred to the Planning Board a conditional-use permit and a rezoning request for a solar farm at 202 Taylor Drive.
— Approved the designation of $550 to the Golden Leaf Lodge’s Knights of Pythagoras program and $100 to Operation Graduation.
— Voted to allow the city manager and the finance director to make needed amendments to the 2013-2014 budget.
— Approved the write-off of some delinquent accounts.
— Authorized April 2014 tax releases.